How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Review by Tulis McCall
28 Mat 2011

This could be titled How To Succeed on Broadway Without Really Anything. Oh, well, it does have something, and that of course is Daniel Radcliffe, who is sweet and earnest and who works very hard. But is this really enough around which to form a musical?

This musical, like Promises Promises, is set in the 1960's when women in the workforce had to wear dresses and were considered indispensible as long as they remained in the secretarial pool. Out of the secretarial pool the choices were simple for women - marriage, the convent or walking the street. What everyone wanted to be was young and male and on a steady climb up the corporate ladder, no matter if the advancement was deserved or not. Here is it not, but that is no matter because our hero is determined to drop the right name, sing the right college song and manipulate the right ad campaign as often as is necessary to reach that office in the sky.

The dirty little secret that no one mentions is that not a lot has changed in 50 years. Walk into any headquarters of a major Wall Street player and the atmosphere is so heady you can cut it with a knife. People speak in hushed tones and the assistants to the white men running the joint are all women, without whom most of these men can't find their way to a brown bag lunch meeting.

So start out with an offensive concept and add unimaginative direction, mediocre music, a bland book and a set that does everything to get in the say of the actors and voila! You will have a hit.

I suppose that, back in the day, if Paul McCartney had been in a Broadway show I would have hung from the rafters to catch a glimpse of him and cheered him in his misogynistic journey. So I can understand why the audience cheers Radcliffe on as he dutifully marches through his part. Radcliffe has been part of our collective consciousness for ten years. Harry Potter has fought the good fight over and over again, and we with him. Of course we want him to succeed.

We want Radcliffe to succeed so badly that people are standing up and cheering after the musical numbers in the second act. This is the state of audiences today. A little enthusiasm blossoms into knee jerk adoration at the sight of a high kick.

One can only hope that Radcliffe doesn't take the audiences' response as anything other than the measure of the fondness that people feel for Harry Potter. John Larroquette, a fine, fine actor, seems to get it and actually appears embarrassed at the curtain call, but maybe that is because his own work here is less than excellent.

The rest of the cast is unremarkable with the exception of Christopher J. Hanke as Bud Frump who is brilliantly self-referential throughout the evening. The dancers are spectacular as always and predictably the men get the applause even though it's the women who have the tap number.

If How To Succeed.... stands a chance of succeeding, the commentary on the working "Man" has to be crisp and the elements of farce clear. Nothing like that happens here. Everyone is earnest to distraction and the boat leaves the harbor without anyone at the wheel. So the audiences will line up to get a look at Harry Potter and leave laughing at a musical that glorifies men who achieve undeserved success and the women who serve them.

Good grief.

(Tulis McCall)

"Charm-free revival."
Ben Brantley for New York Times

"Radcliffe is a likable but very boyish presence. ... He's waxen and not animated enough. Director-choreographer Rob Ashford's production is bright, cheerful and energetic, that's for sure."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

"Radcliffe is back, front and center. ... it's giddy fun to watch him shake his little tush in "Brotherhood of Man."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

"High-octane, hard-working revival. Radcliffe doesn't catch fire until late in the second act of Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows's delectable satire of Big Business, '50s-style. But there's more than enough to divert the eye and ear along the way."
Jeremy Gerald for Bloomberg

"The show ends up frenetic and dull all at the same time."
David Sheward for Back Stage

"His (Radcliffe's) performance is committed and decent, though not glowing. ...If you regard the show primarily as a showcase for Radcliffe - he's plainly meant to be its draw - the production's shortcomings might not matter so much"
Robert Feldberg for The Record

"Daniel Radcliffe succeeds nicely as a musical comedy performer in the okay Broadway revival."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

"quaint can be charming and agreeable, which is generally where this medium-wattage 50th anniversary revival lands. Charming and agreeable are adjectives that also apply to the performer around whom it was packaged, Daniel Radcliffe."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

"Featuring a dazzling Daniel Radcliffe and a strong Broadway debut for John Larroquette, "Business" takes its place at the executive level in a season of musical-comedy hits. .....Production lapses are easily overlooked, thanks to the ministrations of the expert cast led by Radcliffe, who repeatedly brings down the house with a smile and a barely raised brow. "
Steven Suskin for Variety

External links to full reviews from popular press...

New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety

Originally published on

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